LOVAGE - Levisticum officinale
Folklore/Common Names: Old English Lovage, Chinese Lovage, Italian Lovage, Cornish Lovage, Italian Parsley, Sea Parsley, Lavose, Love Herb, Love Rod, Love Root, Lubestico
Parts Used Root, leaf, stem or seed, depending on purpose
A Lovage cordial was a widespread folk medicine used to settle the stomach and ease the digestion. As late as the 1800’s, a ‘Lovage’ could still be found in public houses (pubs), brewed from Lovage, Yarrow or Milfoil, and Tansy. M. Grieve claims in A Modern Herbal, however, that these cordials "owed such virtue as it may have possessed to Tansy".
It is said that even Charlemagne insisted on including Lovage in his landscape.
Beyerl tells us in A compendium of Herbal Magick that a ‘custom of Bohemia’ was for young maidens to wear Lovage hung from their neck in small bags to attract suitable suitors in their dating years.
According to folklore, chewing on a bit of Lovage will keep one alert.
Cautions: Do not take Lovage in any form, internally or externally, if pregnant or if you have any form of kidney disease. Otherwise, Lovage is considered perfectly safe. It is a highly effective diuretic, however, so be sure to drink plenty of water when using Lovage in any form.
Constituents: Lovage contains a volatile oil consisting mainly of phthalides, pinene, phellandrene, terpinene, carvacol, terpineol; isovaleric acid, angelic acid, coumarins, gum, and resin.
Lovage was much used as a medicinal plant in the fourteenth century, with herbalists recommending the root of the herb as a diuretic, as well as for rheumatism, jaundice, colic, malaria, sore throat, and kidney stones, and to regulate or promote menstruation, even obesity. Externally, the leaves and roots added to the bath relieve skin problems. Fresh juice from the leaves was said to cure pink eye. An infusion of the seeds was said to cure freckles. It is still widely used in Europe as a folk-cure for minor stomachache, kidney problems and headache.
Today, herbalists primarily recommend Lovage use for:
Urinary tract infections
Kidney and bladder stones
To relieve flatulence and abdominal pains associated with gas
To promote the onset of, or regulate, menstruation
In a hot infusion, Lovage can be sweat inducing
In traditional Chinese medicine, members of the same genus are used to relieve painful menstruation. The phthalides in the volatile oil have been shown to have mildly sedative effects. In addition, the root of Ligusticum Sinense or KAO-PÂU, largely used by the Chinese, and the root of Ligisticum Filincinum or Osha Cough Root in the US, are both widely used as stimulating expectorants.
GARDENING WITH LOVAGE
Lovage is a large, dramatic perennial, growing up to five feet in height on hollow stems. Tiny yellow clusters of flowers appear in June/July. While it will die back to the ground in Winter, Lovage is quite hardy and can be easily propagated by offsets or root division. The roots themselves are carrot like in shape, and the entire plant is strongly aromatic. Lovage prefers full sun, but isn’t picky about soils; it will do best in well-drained areas. Sow in Spring or late Summer, divide in Spring or Fall. Harvest seed, leaves and root in Fall.
Lovage is perhaps one of the oldest known cultivated ‘salad herbs’ and was used for a variety of culinary purposes, but has since fallen out of favor and is only now experiencing a resurgence in popularity as a kitchen herb. In earlier days, the stalks were blanched like celery, or candied as a confection. The leaves were used fresh in salads and soups. These uses are just as valued and varied today.
All parts of the Lovage plant have a strong celery like flavor, but while the appearance of the stems does resemble celery, it does not have the ‘stringy’ quality of celery. The fresh leaves add a lovely flavor to salads, and the fresh or dried herb can be used in soups, stews and sauces. The seeds, whole or ground, can be used in breads, pickling brines, cheeses and spreads. One source especially recommends Lovage with potatoes, tomatoes, stuffing, and savory pies, and it goes quite well in vegetarian dishes with a rice or nut base.
Lovage adds a wonderful flavor to low-salt or no-salt recipes. The ground seed can be a good aromatic substitute for pepper.
TAROT: Hierophant, World
Just as the name would imply, Lovage is associated with romance, love and attraction. Beyerl quotes from The Master Book of Herbalism in saying "...not only will it bring you love, but regular bathing with this herbe will enhance your beauty, physically, and will also allow the inner radiance to shine forth more brightly". Considering the effectiveness of Lovage throughout history in relation to skin conditions, it’s easy to see how improvements in appearance would come to be an association.
It is recommended to this end that one use Lovage as a bathing herb, particularly in preparing for the Great Rite. However, Lovage can also be dried and powdered as incense or used in tea form.